After leaving Mandalay Baseball this morning, and stopping to get In N Out burger we headed towards our 2nd to last meeting of the trip, the University of Southern California. Since we arrived at USC a bit early, we had the chance to walk around the campus for a few minutes. The campus is so beautiful that we could have kept walking around it all day. It was finally time to walk back to USC’s new athletic facility, the John McKay Center. There we meet Mark Jackson, Senior Associate Athletic Director (and Director of Football Operations). Mr. Jackson actually worked for Syracuse before taking a position at USC. We sat in one of the football classrooms while we listened to Mr. Jackson’s presentation. We got a chance to learn a lot about USC athletics. They are second in the most collegiate national championships, and have also sent the most athletes to the Olympics out of all universities. Everyone knows USC is a football power house but we learned that 16 out of their 21 different sports has one a national championship. The only problem with those 21 sports is that football is the only sport at USC that brings in any revenue. A few other sports have potential to bring in revenue, so that is what the Athletic Department has been working on. Mr. Jackson said they are looking for ways to help both the baseball and basketball programs hopefully grow. The Athletic Department is also trying to promote USC as more than just a football powerhouse. After Mr. Jackson’s presentation he took us on a tour of the John McKay Center as well as the LA Coliseum.
From the outside the John McKay Center doesn’t really look all that special but when you walk through it, it’s a whole other story. It was named after USC’s most successful football coach, John McKay. This center is dedicated to any of the student athletes a USC. In this facility their are offices, meeting rooms, computer rooms, classrooms and so much more. While touring it we saw many indoor train facilities, including a vast weight room and an advanced training room. In addition to all of those things their was also and underground practice turf field that any athlete could use. Though I did not get a chance to walk through the locker room, when all of the boys came out they said it was incredible. There were smaller touchscreen iPads connected to projecting onto a huge wall all of the different gear each team had. This facility is not strictly for working out, there are tutoring and counseling centers and a study space for all of the athletes. Walking out of this facility everyone on the trip was just in awe. This was the most unreal facility I have ever seen, especially at a collegiate level. Its impossible to imagine that USC has trouble recruiting players for there 21 sports with a facility as advanced as that, a beautiful campus, ad incredible weather.
From the John McKay Center we went to tour the LA Coliseum. This stadium has been used in two past Olympics so it is now a historic landmark. This stadium seats over 93,000 people, and USC almost sells it out for there football games, which is beyond insane. It was amazing getting to walk around such a vast and amazing stadium that held so much history.
No one on this trip is ready to head back to the freezing cold in Syracuse after this tour of USC!
The final day in Los Angeles began with a meeting at Mandalay with Mandalay Baseball. We met with Larry Freedman, the president. While at Mandalay we mainly discussed the ins and outs of owning and operating a minor league baseball team. When people are interested in breaking into the sports world, minor league baseball is a great way to get there. Mr. Freedman presented to us multiple people in the sports industry that started out as working for Mandalay with a minor league team. I also enjoyed the unique aspect of Mandalay and the way they operate whether it is with sponsors, marketing or ticket sales. After the meeting at Mandalay, we had to stop at In N Out Burger for our final lunch in California.
Our next stop was the University of Southern California (USC). USC is located in downtown Los Angeles, and is one of the most incredible campus’ I have been on. We met with Mark Jackson, who is the Senior Assistant Athletic Director. What I immediately noticed about Mr. Jackson was his incredible love for USC and love for his job. The energy he possessed while talking with us was inspiring. After meeting with Mr. Jackson, he gave us a tour of the McKay center, which is the home for all 21 sports at USC. Jackson expressed to us that he wants USC to be more than just a football school, and the McKay Center is a big part of that. All sports can use this facility, and it is represented by all the sports at USC. It’s equipped with a gym, study center, a place to relax and everything else you can think of. The McKay center is a beautiful state of the art facility and represents the great dynamic of the athletic department at USC. After touring the McKay Center, we walked over to the LA Coliseum, a historic stadium, where the USC football team plays. This stadium is historic hosting some of the biggest events in sports. Not only has it hosted great sporting events, it also seats 93,000 people. Growing up on the West coast and being an avid fan of PAC-12 sports and college sports in general, being at USC was an unforgettable experience and one of my personal favorite parts of the LA trip.
We ended our final day in LA at Dodger Stadium. At Dodger Stadium we met with Antonio Morici, Senior Manager, Premium Sales and Services, Stuart King, Account Executive, Craig Sindici, Account Executive and Francine Hughes, VP of Stadium Operations. Being able to speak with executives for a major league sports team was a once in a lifetime experience. Each employee stressed to us the importance of sales in sports, and how beneficial it has been for the Dodgers. One thing we’ve learned throughout this entire experience is how important sales are in the sports industry, and it did not stop here. After our meeting at Dodger Stadium, we had a chance to walk around the stadium, the perfect way to end an amazing trip.
On our final day the Sport Management group received a wonderful tour from Mark Jackson Director of Football at the University of Southern California. Although football is a major sport that Jackson oversees he also is involved in many of the sports at the University of Southern California, such as lacrosse and baseball.
The University of Southern California is most well known for it’s football program, and Jackson himself told us that it is the main source of revenue out of all the sports at USC. The football program alone can generate enough revenue to support, and fund sports such as swimming, and tennis, which can cost up to 2.2 million dollars for each team to be functional.
The downside to these sports not generating any revenue for universities, such as USC, is that as a private school they are forced to raise all of their scholarship money; and USC needs around $14 million dollars in scholarship money to be able to acquire the athletes they want, and need for their athletic programs. With football being the only sport to create revenue Jackson, and Athletic Director Pat Haden are determined to make baseball, as well as, basketball revenue generating sports at USC. Jackson and Haden are in the process of transforming these sports into revenue propagating sports, and one way they’re doing this will be by bringing in a new basketball coach; and trying to adjust the way baseball scholarships are dealt with.
Finally to bring this to a close our group was allowed to tour the astounding facilities of USC. First beginning with the brand new McKay Center, which was amazingly finished early; and officially opened in August, as well as under budget, but it still cost them a whopping $20 million to construct. Then our last stop at USC was the Coliseum where they hold all of their football matches, and are now in the process of fully acquiring. At this time the Coliseum is still owned by the state of California, and in the hopes of gaining this wonderful arena USC plans on updating it while still keeping the historic awesomeness of this facility.
In the end although USC athletics has it’s struggles with fundraising, and scholarship money it is still an amazing university with plenty of potential to be even better than what it is today.